PAJU, South Korea -- South Korea football coach Shin Tae-yong said Monday the national team's primary focus will be on organizing defense in practices ahead of two crucial World Cup qualifiers.
Shin's side began training with 16 players at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul, for the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Iran on Aug. 31 and Uzbekistan on Sept. 5. For this early call-up, which is one week ahead of the usual schedule, Shin will work with players based in the Asian football leagues.
Ten other players, including Europe-based Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan, will join the training next week.
South Korea`s national football team head coach Shin Tae-yong speaks at a press conference at the National Football Center in Paju, north of Seoul, on Aug. 21, 2017. (Yonhap)
Shin, who took over the team last month, said he will first work on the team defense for this week's training. Kim Young-gwon with Guangzhou Evergrande was the only South Korean defender who didn't enter the NFC for early training due to his club duty.
In the final Asian qualifying round for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, South Korea have so far surrendered 10 goals in eight matches, tied with Qatar for the most goals conceded in Group A.
"Even though we called up the players early, we don't have the full squad, so we won't able to see the big work," Shin said at a press conference at the NFC. "But we will build up our chemistry and organize our defense."
For this week, Shin's team will begin training at 6 p.m. so that the players can adjust to the match day environment. Against Iran, South Korea will start the match at 9 p.m. at Seoul World Cup Stadium.
"If we follow the exact schedule of the match day, we should start training at 8 p.m., but that's too late," he said. "I worry that training so late will harm the players' fitness levels."
Shin, who previously managed South Korea's under-20 and under-23 squads, said that he won't use his usual style of attacking football against Iran, but is ready to show that the Taeguk Warriors are a tough team.
"If we're meeting Iran in a friendly, I will make the team play attacking football," he said. "Of course, I want to pay back for the humiliation that we've suffered, but these matches are important. My goal is not to beat Iran by a big score, but to go to the World Cup with a win."
The match against Iran will be Shin's senior coaching debut.
South Korea haven't beat Iran since 2011, and their last four meetings all ended in 1-0 wins for Iran.
And while Iran have already booked their spot in the 2018 World Cup, South Korea are currently holding on to the last automatic qualification spot in Group A with 13 points, just one point above Uzbekistan.
Shin said he is hoping veterans will play important roles for the team. Among the players called up for Monday's training are the 38-year-old striker Lee Dong-gook and the 34-year-old midfielder Yeom Ki-hun.
Lee is the all-time leading scorer in the domestic K League Classic, while Yeom has the highest number of career assists in the top South Korean league.
"Veteran players have a role to motivate young players, but they can feel frustrated when they can't play on the pitch," he said. "But I hope they don't feel too bothered by it and stick to their original mindset, which is to build the team as one unit."
Shin also thanked Lee, who said earlier that the players need to be ready to sacrifice themselves for the national team.
"Most players think they are doing the best, but in head coach's view, it can be different," he said. "If the oldest player on this team is stressed about sacrifice, that will really help us to become one unit." (Yonhap)